The Visit film review - uneven tone marrs Shyamalan's return to form

The infamous director's first horror film in over half a decade has original ideas but loses its way when it traps itself between terror and gross-out laughs.

Olivia DeJonge and Deanna Dunagan in The Visit. (Universal Pictures)

Olivia DeJonge and Deanna Dunagan in The Visit. (Universal Pictures)

M Night Shyamalan makes something of a return to form with The Visit, a somewhat unsure but at the very least entertaining horror film. Shyamalan hasn’t directed a film in this vein since 2008’s The Happening and it’s clear that the time away has given him time to think.

The film stars Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould as Rebecca and Tyler, two teenagers sent to their grandparents’ home in Pennsylvania for a week as their mother takes a cruise with her toyboy. It’s a poignant trip for the two teens, as they’ve never met their grandparents before, and things start well, meeting them at the station with a tub of cookies and driving them up the road.

Things take a sinister turn as it unfolds that strange things are afoot: the kids are told to stay out the basement, granddad stockpiles used adult nappies and nana walks around the house at night, clawing at walls and banging on doors. Deanna Dunagan, who plays the nana, is especially sinister, all wide eyes, crooked, drooping face, and unseeming mannerisms.

It would be a disservice to give away anything else, but The Visit is an entertaining watch, and occasionally gross-out funny. Everything is picked up from the video cameras the kids take with them - Rebecca hoping to film a documentary of sorts to capture them meeting and spending time with their grandparents for the first time - and that gives the action a lingering sense of claustrophobia and unknowing, especially as we can only see what they see.

That said, the tonal shift between horror and tidbits of comedy does throw the film a little off balance, and so at times things feel a little off-kilter - but perhaps that’s half the point. Either way, there are worse ways of spending 90 minutes than in the company of film's strangest grandparents.